Utah State to face TCU in NCAA Tournament First Round – Cache Valley Daily

Utah State guard Ian Martinez (4) gestures after making a 3-pointer against San Diego State during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the semifinals of the Mountain West Conference men’s tournament Friday, March 15, 2024, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Ronda Churchill)

LOGAN — Utah State tied its highest ever NCAA Tournament seed, being slated as an eight seed in the upcoming Big Dance. The Aggies will take on TCU the nine seed in the Midwest Region, with the game being played in Indianapolis on Friday, March 22.

“The best day of year for college basketball, you know,” USU basketball head coach Danny Sprinkle said. “And for all of us, obviously a tremendous honor to play in the NCAA tournament.”

TCU went 21-12 this season, including 9-9 in Big 12 play. The Horned Frogs’ most recent game is a loss in the Big 12 conference tournament, 60-45 to Houston. They briefly appeared in the AP Top 25 this season, being ranked 19th in the Jan. 15 poll, dropping out for a week and reappearing at No. 25 on Jan. 29 and then dropping out for good.

“I’ve watched them a lot in the past,” Sprinkle said of TCU. “It’s going to be a physical smash mouth game. And they really defend you really well.”

Sprinkle mentioned he goes back quite a ways with TCU head coach Jamie Dixon, who’s in his eighth year as coach of the Horned Frogs and is taking the team to its fourth Big Dance during his tenure.

“I know Coach Dixon very, very well. He was actually an assistant coach at Northern Arizona when I was a player,” Sprinkle said. “That’s how far back our relationship goes.”

Leading the way for TCU this season has been Emanuel Miller, a 6-foot-7 senior forward. He leads the team in both points (15.9 per game) and rebounds 5.9). He’s not a one-man show, however, as the Horned Frogs average nearly 80 points per game and have plenty of guys to help with that offense. Jameer Nelson (11.3), Micah Peavy (11.1), JaKobe Coles (9.7), Trey Tennyson (8.6) and Avery Anderson (7.8) round out a crew of six players that average at least 7.8 points per game.

Coincidently enough, the school in Sprinkle’s former stomping grounds, Montana State, is a 16 seed in the First Four in the same section as the Aggies. Were the Bobcats to advance to the second round, beating their opponent, Purdue (and the Aggies did the same) Sprinkle would face his old team. Granted that would mean Montana State would have to be the third ever 16 seed to defeat a one seed.

“Super happy for those guys,” Sprinkle said. “Coach (Matt) Logie, like, their players, great kids. Just couldn’t be more excited for them.”

The only other time USU got as high as an eight seed came in 2019 when the Craig Smith-led Aggies were awarded that seed. That year and this season are the only two occasions USU’s had a single-digit seed since seeding was expanded to all teams in 1979.

This will be the fourth time in six seasons the Aggies will participate in March Madness festivities, five if you include the cancelled 2020 tournament USU would have qualified for by earning an auto-bid. Excluding the cancelled tourney, Utah State’s participated in a post-season tournament every year since 2018 (NCAA Tournament in all seasons except 2022 when it played in the NIT).

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